Q: How am I supposed to use those “% Daily Value” figures on food labels?
A: Checking “% Daily Value” information can help you in two ways: as a guide for identifying foods relatively high or low in certain nutrients, and as a tool for comparing different food choices.
The Daily Value is a research-based estimate of how much of that nutrient an average adult should eat as part of a healthy 2000-calorie diet. The % Daily Value tells you how much of the target amount for that nutrient is in a serving of that food, based on the serving size listed on the label. For a nutrient that’s best to limit, such as saturated fat or sodium, containing less than 5 percent of Daily Value means a food can be an especially good choice, while containing 20 percent or more of the Daily Value signals need for caution. But if it’s a nutrient you’re trying to boost in your eating habits, such as dietary fiber or vitamin C, a food that contains 20 percent or more of Daily Value can be a good choice to help you reach healthy levels.
The % Daily Value (%DV) figures won’t give you – or any individual – precise help because people’s needs vary depending on age, gender and overall calorie requirements. But you can use the %DV to compare brands to help you choose a lower sodium soup or a higher fiber breakfast cereal, for example. When you compare %DV, check the serving sizes on the packages to make sure you’re comparing the same amounts.